Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas, I Recorded a Metal Song for You

It's not going to be a silent night with this gem on your juke:

Happy holidays from me and the Megadeth skull. Buen provecho.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Why Did I Eat This?

The prospect of caramelized onions was enough to sucker me into trying the latest attempt at fast food gourmet, the McDonald's CBO Angus Third-Pounder. Click through for a brief (three) photo essay that captures my stupidity and the sadness of this sandwich.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Weighing in on Wells, or Guy Bites Big

By today, most of you have seen Pete Wells' takedown of Guy's American Kitchen & Bar. Already heralded as a thing of beauty by aspiring food writers and other folks that rest comfortably outside this restaurant's target market, the questions-only review takes a megadump on the newest Times Square megarestaurant branded by the goateed specter that haunts my nightmares, Guy Fieri.

It's a fun read, but the joke's on us. While we get to maintain such things as our dignity and our hair color, this clown's laughing all the way to bank. He cleared $8 million last year, and I would imagine that much like Krusty, he signed off on the use of his name and all of those dumbshit menu items after a dump truck full of money showed up in his driveway—too busy to think about anything but the dollar signs because he was "rollin' out!" to the next triple-D shoot.

We're hopeful that Mr. Fieri is investing this cash in something other than hookers and coke, especially if he's planning to continue diluting his brand. In the meantime, let's get back to Mr. Wells, for whom I have a few questions of my own regarding the expectations of this review:

Did you really expect this place to be good? Did the New York Times also review the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. when it first opened? Would you expect your readers—most of whom use the company card to impress clients—to entertain a night out in Times Square? Are you fucking kidding me with this? And one more time, just to make sure—did you really expect this place to be anything other than a T.G.I.Friday's with a different name?

More heartbreaking than this wasted review, however, is the scene that just played out in my mind. Guy's sons, Hunter and Ryder (as if we needed more fuel for the ridicule fire. Plus, that sounds terrible together), are seated at the dinner table, staring longingly at their mostly absent father. The family's eating a Papa John's pizza and Guy closes the lid after grabbing a fourth slice. Not sure what to make of the sad faces (because there's still plenty of pizza left), Guy asks them if there's a problem in flavortown, to which the older one replies:

"Dad, why does everybody hate you so much?" 

You know what's worse than being Guy Fieri? Getting beat up because your dad's Guy Fieri. Buen provecho.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Distilling the Douche Out of Manayunk, One Craft Beer (and One Burger) at a Time

Just in time for the September installment of Manayunk's First Friday, owner Chris Barnes and his crew at Lucky's Last Chance pull off a Robert Irvine-worthy transformation of their second floor from pseudo-club to seats aplenty.  I chatted with Chris during the demolition last week to find out why Lucky's bucked the trend of $3 u-call-its and (insert fucked up candy flavor here) shots that has been Manayunk's SOP for as long as anyone can remember,* and it turns out that the past year of being open was an experiment that ran amok. "We did the whole burger thing on a small scale to start out. We knew we had to cater to a certain population here on Main St, and that's why we kept Upstairs [at Lucky's].  We weren't really sure how far the burger and craft beer thing would go."

In a word, Chris, "Duh."

He's right, though.  Craft beer on Main St. can be a  tough sell.  On the one hand, you've got college kids (or the recently graduated) who favor quantity over quality, and on the other hand, you've got old-ass Main Liners who jump in their tiny-ass Mercedes coupes after drinking way too much wine at Derek's or Jake's.

Fortunately, there's another demographic slowly materializing, and with another level of seating and additional taps, Lucky's Last Chance will be ready for them tonight.

"We're not changing much, just adding tables, really," Chris says.  Still, it's nice to have an option in Manayunk where the food is good and I don't feel too old, too young, and I can bring the kids.  Buen Provecho.

*Nothing wrong with this, folks. Just stating facts.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Best Thing to Come Out of A-B InBev's Acquisition of Goose Island

This year's beer options at the Linc include Goose Island IPA, an offering from the craft beer concern that was (somewhat) recently acquired by marketing machine/shit beer brewer/craft beer bully AB InBev.  Time will tell whether the quality of Goose Island's offerings will wane to Blue Moon standards, but in the meantime, you can pair your overpriced nachos with a more than fairly priced and super delicious IPA ($7.25 for a stadium-sized plastic cup).  Buen provecho.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Why Did I Eat This?

If you've been watching the Olympics, you have no doubt seen (or at least fast forwarded through) Lorena Garcia throwing prop spices on prop food to promote Taco Bell's blatant ripoff of Chipotle/Qdoba, the Cantina Bell menu.  The story we're being fed is that the Latina stereotype/current contestant on Top Chef Masters was the inspiration for the new items, drawing from her vast experience with big bold flavors.  Oh yeah, and she's Venezuelan, too.  Not sure how that translates to fast food Tex-Mex (if you can call it that), but the long and short of it is that our border buddies are trying to beat Qdotle (see what I did there?) on price, asking us consumers "Think Taco Bell Can't Do Gourmet?"

Even before trying it, the answer was obvious.  I KNOW Taco Bell can't do gourmet, but I could give a shit if they could.  I go to Taco Bell for Doritos Locos Tacos and Cheesy Gordita Crunches.  I love the powdery taste of the barely beef, the waterlogged lettuce, and sometimes even the horrible abdominal pains that remind you to stay away from it all for as long as you can.

Still, I had to try their attempt at "gourmet,"  and I was curious how the ripoff would translate when it wasn't styled and made to look as appetizing as it does on TV.  Here's a lazy list of what you can expect from their Cantina Bowl if you decide to try it for yourself:

Since We're All Talking About Chicken Anyway

I figured it would be a much better idea to post this video instead of throwing out my two pennies about Chick-fil-A.  It's unclear whether the dancing KyoChon chicken mascot is a hatemonger, but goddamn it if their fried chicken isn't some of the best I've ever had.

I will say this, however.  Fuck the fucking higher-ups at Chick-fil-A for making all of us choose between eating something delicious and taking the moral high ground.  Buen provecho.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

He Made How Much Last Year?

Click image to see larger
Here's some surprising and depressing news.  According to the Huffington Post, my least favorite person of all time besides the kids that fucked with me in grade school just cracked the top ten list of highest paid celebrity chefs. I'm sure he puts in the hours, but I just can't get past the Offspring haircut and the "terrible to the point where I want to start cutting myself" style.  He even beat Andrew Zimmern and Tony Bourdain.  If anyone needs me, I'll be spending the next few hours with my head in the oven.  During that time, please enjoy this infographic to see what Guy Fieri can buy for the eight million bucks he raked in last year.  Buen provecho.

Friday, July 13, 2012

If I Won the Lottery

I don't play the lottery and I think it's a sucker's bet, but in a parallel universe where I'm a blatant hoarder living in a trailer with my collection of highly flammable stuffed animals, mainlining Easy Cheese into my face for every meal, I would spend at least 95% of my government subsidy on Powerball tickets and scratch-offs.  It would also be in this parallel universe that I would win the jackpot and be ushered into the world of the nouveau riche, where I would immediately commission the Taco Fountain pictured above and buy an El Camino. Buen provecho.

Full disclosure: The Taco Fountain was actually spawned in the brain of Jason Sheehan, food editor at Philly Mag and Foobooz, the latter of which sometimes publishes my drivel.  I've kind of been obsessed with the idea since he mentioned it, and you should be, too.  Further, if you consider yourself a Maker, perhaps we could get together and build it?  I'm sure it would kill at hipster weddings.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Easiest Paella Recipe Ever

Until I realized that being Mexican is actually super awesome*, I would lie and say I was Spanish.  Not that being Spanish made you any less of an outsider in Utah, but bullfighting was definitely more acceptable than low riders (it's a footrace regarding which one is cooler).  I suppose it's not a total lie, but the details on my ancestry are foggy, and that commercial where the white people open up a laptop and have their entire family history after a few clicks is bullshit.  What does it all mean?  Nothing, really.  It's just a roundabout way to introduce you to the easiest paella recipe ever made.  Step-by-step photo instructions after the jump.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Side Project Jerky - Now With More E-Commerce

Ladies and gentlemen, my online store is now accepting orders for our flagship jerky flavors in 2oz. packages, and shipping is free for the next two weeks.  Who's pumped?  I know Montgomery the muskox sure is.  Buen provecho.

Friday, June 01, 2012

A Legendary French Chef Walks Into a Bar...

I exist on the periphery of tragedy.  Eleven years ago, I was five blocks away from the hole formerly known as the World Trade Center and now known as the Freedom Tower.  A year later, a giant portion of the northeast was enveloped in darkness, and I'm pretty sure my block was one of the first to get power.  Last March, I was in Tokyo during the biggest earthquake in Japan's history, and a few months later (this really wasn't a tragedy but it does fall into the category of holy-shit-that-was-intense), Mrs. Gastro missed her epidural window and had a drug-free childbirth (she was a total rockstar).  It has been quite the decade, but not even a former sommelier of Georges Perrier could prepare me for a chance meeting with him at Iron Hill Brewery last night.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Cat is Out of the Bag

Actually, it's beef, and it's in the bag, a vacuum-sealed one to be exact.  After months in the test kitchen, I'm happy to announce my latest venture, Side Project Jerky.  Our not-so-humble mission is to provide the highest quality and best tasting jerky available, thereby spreading the beef jerky bible to jerky eaters both on the go and at the bar.  Foobooz gave us a great write-up this morning and can tell you when and where to get it in the coming months.  You can also follow us @sideprjctjerky on Twitter and check out webpage for more information.  Buen provecho.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Why Did I Eat This?

I feel bad for Wendy's.  Without Dave Thomas, the marketing's not the same, nor will it ever be.  For whatever reason, it was like they didn't even have to try under his watchful four eyes.  Now, they're flailing like the rest of the fast food giants, not only with their completely forgettable marketing campaigns, but also with their "throw a bunch of shit at the wall and hope something sticks" method of introducing new dishes.  Their latest attempt—a spicy chicken sandwich topped with pepper jack, bacon, and "natural" guacamole—was the first one in a long time to grab my attention, primarily because of the word "natural."  I'm assuming that they couldn't legally use the term "fresh" and figured "natural" would convey the same idea, but when I looked under the hood, the guacamole's neon-green hue reminded me of Ecto-cooler, and it had the telltale tang of something mass produced and infused with whatever acidic chemical is used to prevent it from turning greyish-brown.  Guacamole notwithstanding, I still ate the whole damn thing in five seconds, and the reasoning is simple.  The spicy chicken breast is one of the greatest and best tasting innovations in fast food, and the toppings are no match for its bold flavor, so the only thing you really taste besides the chicken is regret.  Try it if you must (Serious Eats and DidjaEat? both liked it), but my recommendation is to stick with the standard.  Buen provecho.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to Happy Hour

Thank you very much for reaching out to me regarding a recent comment I made on Foobooz about XXXXX.  It certainly came as a surprise considering that I changed my phone number not too long ago, but if my remarks warrant tracking me down, then yay me. Since I’m pretty sure that you and your management were the only people who actually bothered to read it, I’ll go ahead and post it here again for a bit more visibility:

“Have yet to have a positive experience there. Dirty glasses, stale nachos, always out of the one beer that I want on their draft list, and the staff is a bunch of jerks. The XXXXX boys need to keep a closer eye on this spot.”

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Martini Experiment

Martini on a high chair. Father of the year.
A recent visit from a couple with no kids inspired Mrs. Gastro and I to try out the Southern tradition of cocktails at 6pm.  If you're like them and your list of responsibilities is a little shorter than ours, I highly recommend following suit.  It's a great way to start the evening, and it'll slice the edge off cleaner than the sharpest of Japanese cutlery.  If you happen to have two or more kids, however, the 6pm cocktail hour plays out like a grown-up version of an after-school special. You forget about the meat on the grill, the macaroni for the kids boils to mush because you shifted your attention to the cocktail shaker, and the whole host of shit you need to do once you've finished your neglected dinner is still waiting for you three days later.  With the bender complete, it's safe to say that the martini experiment was as big a failure as my unfortunate run-in with Four Loko couple years back.  Martinis are delicious, but it's probably wise to save it for when the kids are in college and you need to self-medicate to forget about how much it's costing you.  Buen provecho.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Ozzie Guillen: It Was All a Misunderstanding

Blame the suspension on broken English (or the rain or whatever), but this is what Ozzie Guillen really meant to say.  Buen provecho.

Why Did I Eat This?

From the department of "I should have known better" comes another piece of shit breakfast sandwich from Dunkin' Donuts.  I know you have all been impatiently waiting for me to eat this, so I finally bit the stale bagel bullet (Jesus went so far as to die for your sins, so I figured it was the least I could do for the people still reading this).  Here's a quick rundown of why you should probably avoid Dunkin's Angus Steak & Egg sandwich:

1. The bagel, as is the case with all Dunkin' Donuts bagels, is chewy on the inside, but you have to gnaw through the impenetrable "crust" to get to it.  It's a lot like cutting through pork skin with a dull knife, but doing so with your teeth, and way less worth the work involved. 

2. The eggs are nothing if not consistent.  Three years later, they still taste like this.

3. I had no expectations for the "steak" other than the hope I could keep it down.  I didn't expect it to taste EXACTLY like a microwave cheeseburger, but when it did, I was at least happy that it tasted familiar.

This poor excuse for a breakfast sandwich set the tone for the rest of the day, which got more and more depressing as the "steak," "eggs," and "cheese" made their way through my system.  I suppose I should just be thankful that I didn't get (literally) crucified the day before.  Buen provecho.

Monday, April 02, 2012

A Well Roundeyed Meal: Cheu Noodle Pop-Up

With two feet firmly planted on the Ramen Radio Flyer, I snagged an early reservation for noodle nerds Ben Puchowitz and Shawn Darragh's third pop-up, held last night at Matyson.  While the simple yet complex noodle soup was definitely the draw, the rest of the menu held its own, showcasing Puchowitz's Asian abilities (rumor has it that he's really good at math, too*) as well as his talent with tails.  From start to finish, here's a lazy list of the things you should eat when you book your reservation for the next Cheu Noodle Bar.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Making a Good Idea Great: The Cheesy Dorito Crunch

Continuing my slight obsession with Taco Bell's Doritos Locos Tacos, I took the obvious next step of having the taco artists put one inside a Cheesy Gordita Crunch.  The results?  Remember Matt Levin's super poutine at Adsum?  It broke the fucking mold.  Plus, the gordita shell keeps your fingers squeaky clean.  It was well worth the extra 30 cents that they charge to combine the two.  Buen provecho.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Field Trip: Crown Burgers in Salt Lake City, Utah

A snowboarding trip to Utah isn't complete without a stop at Crown Burgers.  Their eponymous burger is a thing of beauty.  After sitting on an open flame until charred in all the right places, it's topped with a slice of yellow American cheese, a half-pound of griddled pastrami, shredded lettuce, tomato, and fry sauce (mayo folded into ketchup).  Served with French fries whose shape and thickness would be the result of a steak fry and a McDonald's fry having fry babies, I was tempted to order three more in case it took me another three years to get back to Salt Lake (and three days after returning home, I feel like a jackass that I didn't). Buen provecho.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Why Did I Eat This?

Are we certain that we should be eating these colors?
I'm going to skip the formalities and get straight to the point.  Leave work now and find your nearest Taco Bell so you too can try this brilliant combination of Doritos and dog food-grade meat that is a marriage more perfect than Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman.  A few quick pros and cons about the experience:

Pro: It's your standard Taco Bell taco, but the shell is caked in nacho cheese powder.  There is some expectation of how it's going to taste, but nothing can prepare you for how well it goes with the taco fillings.
Con: The wet beef makes the "hinge" of the shell soggy.  If you've ever been at the beach or on the lake when some jackass forgets to close the bag of Doritos, then you know what I'm talking about.  In my case, it was just a jackass food blogger (me) taking too many pictures.

Pro: Since there is a finite amount of shell, your Dorito intake is limited by the amount of tacos you can eat instead of speed eating an entire bag of (Family Size) chips in one sitting.
Con: Powdered cheese fingers.  Although it's 2012, scientists have yet to figure out a way around this clothes-ruining nuisance (I just now realized that I could have used the cardboard sleeve to avoid this. Fuck).

Pro: $1.69 for the Supreme version.
Con: The low price guarantees that the next time I go, I'll order a dozen of them, and since I hate wasting food, I'll have to eat the entire lot.

One final note about this taco.  I'll typically go through ten packets of Fire sauce (on two tacos) with any Taco Bell meal.  I think that's standard operating procedure for most of you, but take heed that if you do so, the delicious Doritos flavor will nullified.  Buen provecho.

Launching Today: Doritos Locos Tacos

Keep your browsers tuned to Fidel Gastro today for a very special (and long overdue) entry of Why Did I Eat This?  It's a Dorito.  It's a Taco Supreme.  It's worth falling prey to the nostalgia of Taco Bell and their new "Live Más" marketing campaign, which is ironic considering this shit will kill you. But if it's anything like crossing the streams in Ghostbusters, the reward of combining two hyper-processed pseudo-Mexican products will be worth the risk.  Buen provecho.

Friday, February 10, 2012

My Toddler is Cooler Than Your Toddler

With the advent of technology and the whole "civilization" thing, I no longer have to spend the day hunting to put dinner on the table.  The upside of this arrangement is not getting eaten by a lion.  The downside is that our food is often hyper-processed, with nutrition losing to convenience nine times out of ten.  I've always said that I'm an equal opportunity eater, and I believe that there's a time and a place to eat shit, but I would be very happy if my children didn't make the same mistakes I made, sentencing them to a life wrought with self-consciouness and ill-fitting pants.

Whether or not it's a lucky break, I'm thankful that we're off to a good start.  This past Sunday after our first trip to Elevation Burger (patties needed salt but they might have Five Guys beat in the fry department), I made an Indian-spiced salmon topped with a yogurt sauce, and Toddler Gastro smiled after her first bite and asked for more.  She also ate her broccoli.  This kid rules, and the whole experience was made even better by the fact that it was super easy to cook, so processed foods can suck it.  Buen provecho.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Two Day Hangover: Big Ass Beerfest

I spent last Saturday shamelessly photographing the craft beer geek version of Pauly D in between gulps of beers whose average %ABV was in the upper 9s.  Here's a quick list of the highlights:

1. Stoudt's Old Abominable: If you don't believe in the abominable snowman (which is an abomination in itself), you probably don't believe there exists a drinkable barleywine, but this one went down way too easily.  Needless to say, I got abominably bombed.
2. Green Flash Double IPA: I hate to use the word dank, but there's no other word to describe how punishing the hops were in this palate coating pale ale.
3. Central Waters Illumination Double IPA: Nowhere near the intensity of the Green Flash, but still worth a nod for its non-syrupy and floral qualities.
4. Brooklyn Brewery Companion Wheat Wine: From the Brewmaster's Reserve series, A very subtle 10%-er with an almost sour taste.

My sincerest apologies to Mrs. Gastro for rendering myself completely useless in dealing with our daughter's double ear infection.  Buen provecho.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Tortilla Soup All Up in Your Face

Tortilla Soup isn't just my mother-in-law's favorite movie, it's also a soup, and when the cold wind blows through your uninsulated 1800s-era home, it's a welcome wintertime meal.  Growing up, Ma and Pa Gastro opted for pozole and/or chile verde, so I had little experience with the movie soup in my own kitchen.  I did make a shitty batch of it in the early 2000s, but that was so two thousand and late, so I decided to make it again, and this time it was two thousand and great.  I recommend you try it for yourself.  It was a nice way to spend a Saturday afternoon, and there was plenty left over to get out of cooking on Sunday.  Recipe after the jump.  Buen provecho.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Super Timely New Year's Eve Post

I saw something on TV that said if you eat like a pauper on New Year's Eve, you'll eat like a king for the rest of the year.  The classic dish to make is black-eyed peas, but no matter how hard I try to like them, they taste like mushy sand.  They also remind me of the band with the blind guy and the creepy ass dude that dances in the background and whose race is impossible to discern.  Struggling with an idea for poor people food, I happened upon mussels.  At three bucks a pound, they're the 99-cent value menu of shellfish, and at the Top of Hill Seafood Market in Chestnut Hill, they'll even clean them for you, making them that much easier to prepare.  Just saute some shallots and garlic, deglaze the pot with wine, then add the mussels and steam until they open up.  Then drink your face off with all of the booze your guests brought you and give yourself a high five for making such an awesome poor people dish.  Buen provecho.